Updated 10/7/23; Originally Published 2/19/23
Oxytocin is known to many as the hormone of love and bonding. I know it as the the most powerful hormone we have, an anti-aging hormone, a crucial neurotransmitter for our brain, and our biological key to social intelligence. One research paper even referred to oxytocin as the Great Facilitator of Life.
- Oxytocin Benefits
- Who Benefits From Oxytocin? Everyone!
- Creating and Using Oxytocin
- 42 Ways to Raise Your Oxytocin Level
Oxytocin, Brain Health, and Mood
There are a large number of oxytocin receptors all over the brain waiting for the oxytocin hormone to move cross country through the brain tissue to where it is welcome. Certain parts of the brain have an affinity for oxytocin. Oxytocin signals your amygdala to switch from a state of fear to a state of faith and trust. When the oxytocin receptors activate in your nucleus accumben, your sense of well being increases. Your hippocampus, your seat of memory, loves oxytocin too improving memory.
Social Intelligence and Oxytocin
Oxytocin is the hormone that facilitates pair bonding in humans and other animals. Oxytocin rises during sexual arousal and peaks with an orgasm – particularly for women. In babies, oxytocin rises when they receive direct skin to skin contact which is crucial to growth for premature babies. Even laughing and spending time with friends gets an oxytocin rush that bonds you closer to your friends. New couples enjoy an oxytocin high that we sometimes call “falling in love”.
People with higher oxytocin levels tend to feel more empathy for others, have an easier time discerning the emotions of others, and hold a more positive outlook on life. They are living in a state of internal love that can be shared with those around them.
Oxytocin plays a part in the development of the brain throughout life. Stimulus signals from the world around us are more easily identified and processed by the brain when oxytocin is present. Understanding and responding to the world around is a hallmark of someone who can exist well in society.
Oxytocin for Stress Relief
Oxytocin is an antagonist for the stress hormone cortisol. In fancy words, oxytocin influences the adrenal glands via something called the HPA Axis (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal). Oxytocin encourages regeneration and healing in the body. Cortisol slows down healing while you deal with the current danger. Like endorphins, oxytocin helps reduce your pain level by calming your nervous system.
- Makes the body more alkaline
- Encourages connection with other living beings
- Builds trust
- Strengthens socially based memories
- Anabolic – builds up body
- Increases the desire to protect
- Keeps you wanting to be alive
- Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system
- Makes the body more acidic
- Encourages you to fight or run away from people
- Builds caution
- Strengthens trauma based memories
- Catabolic – breaks down body
- Increases the ability to protect
- Keeps you alive
- Inflammation producing??
- Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system
Oxytocin travels up and down the pathway between your gut and your brain. You may know this pathway as the vagus nerve – the kingpin of your parasympathetic nervous system. The calming, healing, digestion supporting activity of the vagal nerve system is upregulated by the presence of oxytocin moving around the area. Messages created by oxytocin tell both the brain and the gut to reduce cellular inflammation, calm the body and mind, and be nice!
Anti-Aging and Oxytocin
Recent studies show that oxytocin does more than just help your social skills and bonding. Oxytocin helps you feel and stay young!
Oxytocin has also been shown to be present in higher amounts when muscles heal faster. Bone osteoblasts are stimulated to make new bone cells when in the presence of oxytocin. The creation of memories relating to social events is enhanced by oxytocin – in order to have those memories to draw on for future social behavior decisions. This applies to pleasant memories and to those less pleasant and perhaps stressful. Oxytocin also seems to reduce your appetite for food (and the reward in your brain for eating) in favor of supporting your sexual appetite. Yay for weight loss!
Who Benefits from Oxytocin? Everyone!
Oxytocin’s Role in Childbirth and Breastfeeding
A mother in labor requires oxytocin in order for her uterus to contract and push the baby out. As I understand it, when the baby is ready to be born, he or she sends a request to the brain for more oxytocin in the uterus which ramps up the contractions and the feedback loop continues. Oxytocin is also released when a mother breastfeeds or her nipples are stimulated in other ways. The oxytocin stimulates contractions in the breast’s milk ducts to encourage the outward movement of colostrum or milk. The longer the nipple stimulation or feeding, the higher the oxytocin levels are. Yay!
In medical efforts to start the labor work of childbirth, an artifical hormone called Pitocin is often given intravenously. Pitocin is the manmade version of oxytocin coming in hot and hard to try and get labor started. Any woman who has experienced both pitocin-full and pitocin-lacking labors can tell you that too much is not always better. Pitocin gets the contractions going but the pain relief and brain benefits do not come with the IV drip. When I taught natural childbirth classes, we always discussed nipple stimulation, massage, warm water baths, and sex as better ways to encourage labor to begin and continue smoothly.
Oxytocin Protects Postmenopausal Women
Estrogen and oxytocin are best buddies in the field of protecting women. Within the brain, the high density locations of oxytocin receptors overlaps well with the high density locations of estrogen’s beta receptors – the ones that are anti-inflammatory and tissue protective in nature. Within the pituitary gland, over 85% of the neurons (brain cells) generate both estrogen and oxytocin. This pairing of estrogen and oxytocin continues throughout the body in ways we are still discovering.
It is thought that this connection is partly why older women taking bioidentical hormones feel better overall – they have better access to the oxytocin because they are purposefully taking estrogen. What do you do when your estrogen levels drop? Boost your oxytocin!
Men Need Oxytocin Too!
Oxytocin is important for men’s reproductive health as well. Oxytocin plays a part in the creation of testosterone. Oxytocin supports the contractions in the vas deferens that pushes sperm and semen out to create ejaculation. Men are less sensitive than women to the calming and attachment effects of oxytocin which should come as no surprise. Its biological!
Low Oxytocin Affects Mental and Physical Health
When you are low on oxytocin, you are often low on social skills, high on anxiety, low on healing, high on depression, and low in feeling. Your low oxytocin levels could be related to currently high stress levels – more stress reduction for you! You could have lived in a state of chronic stress for long enough that your adrenal glands and brain are both shutting down functions so you are low in cortisol and low in oxytocin.
Low oxytocin levels are found in autistic children and adults particularly those with more symptoms on the Asperger’s Syndrome end of the spectrum. Low oxytocin levels are also found in people who experience intense or frequent depression and anxiety. Even schizophrenics are found to have generally lower levels of oxytocin and improve when oxytocin rises.
Have I mentioned yet that oxytocin affects your metabolic health? It does! Low oxytocin is connected to increased appetite and its associated weight gain. Want to lose weight? Don’t forget about raising your oxytocin to help you!
Making and Using Oxytocin
Creating Oxytocin Requires a Healthy Brain
Oxytocin is made in the hypothalamus – the regulatory part of the brain located right in the center of your head behind your sphenoid sinus. Your pituitary gland, dangling just below the hypothalamus, is the endocrine gland that releases some of the oxytocin into your blood stream so the rest of the body can benefit.
Your hypothalamus is the one part of your brain that exists partly outside of the blood brain barrier and is therefore more at risk of damage from environmental toxins. When your hypothalamus is compromised, its ability to make oxytocin decreases. Luckily, your Wellness Lifestyle ensures that you are avoiding and eliminating toxins that might limit your oxytocin. Incorporating routine detoxification activities will help your hypothalamus stay in tip-top shape so you can make as much oxytocin as you desire!
Positive Feedback for Oxytocin Levels
Oxytocin has a short lifetime within the body and brain. Once a single molecule of oxytocin is generated in the brain, it only lives for about 3 minutes. One beautiful thing about oxytocin creation is that the oxytocin feedback loop is positive. In other words, when the body responds to the presence of oxytocin, the pituitary gland wants to make more oxytocin – not less. You can consider oxytocin a “use it or lose it” hormone. The longer you go without it, the less you want it. Don’t lose it! The sky is the limit! It then makes complete sense to me that you will want to find ways to grow your oxytocin very often!
Medications Can Lower Oxytocin
Many people, especially women, are taking medications prescribed by the doctor without realizing that they might affect their ability to generate oxytocin or orgasm. Which medications do that you ask? Inside the Zen and Vitality Lending Library is a lovely book written by a medical doctor and a Taoist Master which gives medication names. In general, oxytocin and orgasms can be negatively affected by anything that changes:
- your nerves such as pain medication
- your blood flow such as high blood pressure or diabetes medication
- your brain and mood such as depression medication
- your awareness such as alcohol
Luckily, in many health situations living a Wellness Lifestyle brings about so many positive changes that you can gradually wean off your medications and enjoy life more fully – thanks to oxytocin!
Nutrition and Oxytocin
While there are no foods that contain oxytocin, your diet can absolutely support better oxytocin production. Oxytocin is basically 9 amino acids (the building block of protein) and a sulfur molecule. It is actually quite small and elegant compared to the cumbersome thyroid hormone with 201 amino acids. The process your body goes through to make oxytocin requires Vitamin C (called a co-factor). Caffeine, in particular coffee (yay!) stimulates the release of oxytocin which might explain why gathering with your friends for a cup of coffee feels extra good. Just make sure your coffee is mold-free, you eat enough protein, and eat your organic fruits and veges!
Oxytocin Receptors, Magnesium, and Your Genetics
There is a gene (known SNPs include rs53576, rs2254298, and rs1042778) that holds operation instructions for your oxytocin receptors throughout your body. If you are wondering why a particular person seems to have a better grasp of reading the emotions of others or responds more intensely to touch, it might be in the genes. It might also be that they are stressed, nutrient deficient, dehydrated, or are preoccupied! However, I find it valuable to remember that some humans are simply going to need higher or lower levels of oxytocin floating around in their brain and blood stream in order to be happy and in a healing state.
Of the many roles in the body that magnesium and Vitamin D have, they share the task of activating the oxytocin receptors in the cells so they will better accept oxytocin hormones. This is particularly important to the brain cells and can play a big part in the prevention of migraines. What’s that? Magnesium, Vitamin D, and oxytocin (aka sexual arousal) can prevent a migraine? That’s what the current clinical trials are working to confirm – do your own experiment!
Orgasms are Oxytocin Factories
Oxytocin is released into the brain and body as part of sexual arousal and orgasm – much more so for women than for men. As your arousal increases, so does your oxytocin levels in your brain and body. when you are enjoying intimacy with a partner, your oxytocin levels will go much higher than when you are alone. When you enjoy sexual arousal and sexual play without an orgasm, your oxytocin levels definitely rise but not as high as they could (or should!).
Orgasm is the peak of the your sexual arousal and your oxytocin generation. For men, the pituitary gland in the brain is simply less responsive to the positive feedback of oxytocin.or For women, the intense flood of oxytocin brings with it a long to bond, a deep satisfaction, and a wash of the feeling that all is right in the world again. Perhaps you can see why a weekly (or more often!) orgasm is a great women’s wellness tool?
Once you create your orgasm, your oxytocin remains high for about 5 minutes and then starts to decline. Women who have done the work to optimize their hormones, brain health, nutrition, breath, and nervous system, should all be capable of multi-orgasmic experiences whenever they like. That’s a lot of oxytocin!
42 Ways to Raise Your Oxytocin Level
Involve Someone Else
- Hug your dog, cuddle your cat, brush your horse, you get the idea!
- Gather with a friend or friend group
- Smile at the people you cross paths with
- Compliment a friend or stranger so they feel good too!
- Make love with your partner physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually
- Play with a child or your own inner child!
- Kiss someone like you mean it
- Share a 30 second hug – not one of those quickies!
- Call a far away dear friend
- Give a massage – hands, feet, back, anywhere that is welcome
- Volunteer somewhere that you can see the impact on other humans from your efforts
- Create something (food, art, etc.) then gift it to someone
- Request a head and face massage – oh it will feel good! Who knows where it will lead!
With Me at Zen and Vitality in La Plata, Maryland
- Bask during your red/infrared light session to stimulate your hypothalamus
- Give yourself a self fascial massage (like we do in my Fascial Release Classes)
- Check your body’s available copper and magnesium levels in a Hair Mineral Analysis – because copper is tied to estrogen and magnesium is needed to activate your oxytocin receptors
- Revel in the extra blood flow (everywhere!) during your infrared sauna session
- Practice meditation either on your own or with one of my guided meditation recordings
- Boost your magnesium – eat chocolate (not if you are estrogen dominant!) or even better – supplement with Magnesium Breakthrough’s blend of many Mg forms or Magnesium Threonate for the brain and nervous system.
- Take a walk with others nearby or join an in person or live virtual exercise class (with me!)
- Take away cellular stress with an Ionic Detox Footbath and focus on making oxytocin
- Add liposomal Vitamin C for terrific delivery to your brain cells (It is also present in liposomal Ultra Vitamin) or drink rose hip tea for its vitamin C content even when you are not trying to head off a cold
- Work on the strength, pliability, and responsiveness of your pelvic floor – let’s start with a private to assess your unique needs
- Make some Vitamin D. If you can not get out in the sunshine to make your own Vitamin D, you likely need a great supplement. Many of my clients like liquid D3/K2 drops since it does not require any digestive work. I get what I need in liposomal Ultra Vitamin.
- Work on stress reduction and vagus nerve activation to strengthen the pathway between your sexual organs and your brain
- Ask for my guidance at assessing your protein intake and digestion – you need protein to make and release hormones like oxytocin
- Give Julva a try – this cream formulated by a doctor works great to give a temporary boost to your sex organs in the name of increasing oxytocin and orgasm!
- Breathe! Breathe to relax. Breathe to activate your sexual energy. Breathe to wake up your reproductive organs and pelvic floor. Need help? Request a consultation!
- Get your mold-free coffee here! I drink the healthiest coffee I can find – Danger Coffee and Purity Coffee.
These Are For Just You!
- Dive into your favorite book and feel part of that world
- Lovingly stroke your own skin – even better if you fantasize someone else stroking it for you
- Watch a movie that helps you laugh until you cry
- Look into someone’s eyes with love – how about your own?
- Breathe, honor your body, and practice yoga alone
- Practice gratitude for what you have now and in the past
- Sniff essential oils like clary sage, jasmine, indian sandalwood, and neroli
- Practice meditation either on your own or with one of my guided meditation recordings
- Sing! Out Loud! Seriously!
- Plan social time or something that makes you happy – planning can be enough!
- Remember what it felt like when you were “falling in love” – what a high oxytocin time that was
- Create something (food, art, etc.) then gift it to someone
- Look at photos of people you love and think about what you would tell them right now
Which one is your favorite? Go make some oxytocin!